My name is Bernetta Jo Young. I’m a 58 year-old African American female in Dallas, Texas. In March of 2020 of this year, my job notified me I would be working from home due to COVID-19. This was basically when everything started. As with everyplace else, all of our stores were shut down, restaurants were closed. There was nothing to do but stay at home, work, and eat. So, I found myself just eating as much as I could and putting on as much weight as I possibly could. At one point, I realized that I had reached my maximum weight in life.
I remembered last summer when a coworker had invited me to go hiking with him. When I went, I was so out of shape, it took me forever to complete the hike. My coworker, his wife and friend kept coming back to check on me to make sure I was okay. I thought I was going on a long walk in the woods and didn’t realize that hiking was not the same as walking on a smooth, even surface.
With my current situation, I decided to take a look at hiking again because I knew that I had to do something different this time because my knees and back were hurting me at night. I was exhausted walking up the stairs.
They have several different trails out there. The one that I take is a little bit over two miles. It’s a man-made trail where they’ve added different textures and it’s hilly. The worst part is going up the steep inclines. I don’t like to go with other people or in groups. I like to be by myself so that I can hear myself think, connect with my spirit, the universe, or nature and do it at my own pace.
In the beginning, I couldn’t listen to any music or wear my headphones because I would get anxious. It was so hot out and I would get sick. I couldn’t complete the trail. Halfway through I would ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” and tell myself, “You’re too old for this.” I’d swear that I’m wasn’t coming back, but I would find myself showing up again and again.
One time, I fell going down the stairs. I have what I call a battle scar on my left arm from that incident. It reminds me every time I get to that section of the stairs to take my time, to be careful, and not to get in a hurry.
There are other things that have happened out there. Once, two ladies saw me struggling and I asked them if they could get some assistance for me. They notified the authorities and an emergency vehicle had to come and cart me in.
There are these little markers on the trail that tell you how much further you have to go. I try not to look at them, but the bad thing is, I’ve memorized where all of them are! I love to see “.01” because that means that I’m almost at the end of the trail.
With the pandemic the trail was the one of the places that actually remained open. There have a variety of people out there. You see old people, young people, African Americans, Indians, Hispanics. You will see people hiking with their babies on their backs. Now I probably would fall and drop my baby, if I had a baby, but I mean, they make it. You see people walking their dogs. They warn you to the stay on the trial because they have every kind of snake out there: copperheads, rattlesnakes, water moccasins. No one has to worry about me; I stay on the trail. A lot of people run the trail. They run, but I’m not into running. I’m still a walker.
Today, I am so proud of myself. I can actually do this hike! I can complete the whole thing! I’m not really fast, so my next goal is to work on the timing to see if I can decrease the amount of time that it actually takes me to complete the hike now versus when I first started out.
The other important thing is water. I tried it all. I would go out and not take water with me, but now I hydrate before and after my workout. I learned what works best for me because I don’t like having to carry anything when I’m hiking.
If you’re gonna look at any good in the COVID-19 pandemic is now everybody has on a mask. When I’m hiking I wear a mask, sunglasses and a baseball cap. With the mask on no knows who I am. It’s my disguise.
I started wearing headphones, listening to music, after a couple of weeks in. Now, when I get to the end of the hike on the straightaway, I do a little victory dance routine and it makes it where I’m not concentrating on the pain and the time and the sweat. I actually get into the music and add in some extra moves and exercise to my workout.
I go about three to four times a week, sometimes six times a week. I can see the change in myself. I feel like I’m getting healthier. I have more energy. I’ve lost 35 pounds! There are times when I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t necessarily see the weight loss, but when I put on clothes that I haven’t worn in years or wear things that were really tight and are now baggy, I know hiking is really making a difference.
Note from Bernetta Jo: I am not a professional or licensed health coach. I am simply sharing my story. As a result of hiking, I plan to explore additional educational and training opportunities related to health and exercise.